After a heavily disrupted 2020 season, the County Championship circuit returned this week with a new bunch of fresh-faced youngsters looking to impress. CaughtOutCricket follows up previous editions by previewing ten players to watch.
Previous editions: 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019
Jordan Cox (Age 20) – Kent
A talented wicketkeeper-batsman, Cox became the first player born in the 21st century to score a first-class hundred in England last summer, the fact he turned it into a double says a lot about the potential of this impressive young player.
He made his Kent debut across all three formats two summers ago after being involved with the county’s youth ranks since the age of ten and signing his first professional contract at eighteen.
The Margate-born right-hander became a fixture in the Kent T20 side in 2020 but it was in the County Championship where he made a name for himself when, opening the batting, he scored an unbeaten 238 against Sussex which also involved a club record unbroken 423-run stand with Jack Leaning.
However, just days after he became the county’s highest maiden century-maker, breaking a 57-year-old record in the process, he was reprimanded and dropped from the side for breaking COVID-19 protocols when agreeing to pose for a photo with some young fans.
A regular for the England U19’s over the years, he scored imposing centuries against Bangladesh and Sri Lanka in 2019 before being part of last year’s U19 World Cup squad.
What 2021 holds?
With long-time opener Sean Dickson now at Durham, Cox is likely to see plenty of time opening the batting alongside club stalwart Daniel Bell-Drummond – although Zak Crawley is also another option when he’s not on England Test duty.
Joe Denly and Heino Kuhn could also open the batting, however both are likely to slot into the middle alongside Leaning and captain Sam Billings (after he arrives back from the IPL) leaving room for Cox to continue his development.
Ollie Robinson will again keep the gloves leaving Cox as a valuable member of the slips cordon when Kent begins their campaign at Northamptonshire on April 8th.
Joey Evison (19) – Nottinghamshire
Peterborough-born Evison is the most promising player to emerge from the Nottinghamshire academy in many years.
A seam bowling allrounder, 19-year-old Evison offers right-arm medium pacers with the ball and plenty of power with the bat.
He made his first-class debut against Warwickshire in September 2019 batting at number six and making a 54-ball 45 in the first innings in the process. However, after signing new a three-year contract he would have to wait almost a year before he got another opportunity in the side with Covid-19 delaying the 2020 season.
During his second Championship outing, against Derbyshire and batting at number nine, he struck a handy 38 from 59 which included two sixes before taking 3-38 with the ball. After only one match a foot injury subsequently ruled him out for the rest of the 2020 summer.
He also made his England U19 debut in 2019 – showcasing his power in a tri-series in the Caribbean where he equalled the fastest recorded 50 at the U19 level against Sri Lanka, taking just 18 balls to reach the landmark.
This form led to his inclusion in the U19 World Cup squad where he scored another fifty (57) against Sri Lanka.
What 2021 holds?
After playing against Oxford UCCE in a pre-season friendly and posting unbeaten innings of 6 and 18, he was left out of the season opener against Durham with fellow youngster and seaming allrounder Lyndon James getting the nod instead.
It’s likely that he’ll spend the summer battling it out with both James and Zak Chappell for the leading allrounders role in Steven Mullaney’s Championship side.
With the Hundred being played parallel to the Royal London 50-over competition this year, Evison will certainly be looking for opportunities to establish himself in Notts’ white ball teams as the cricketing summer reaches its climax.
Tom Clark (19) – Sussex
A tall and classy left-handed batsman, Clark featured at number four in the Sussex middle-order in 2020 after making his first-class debut at the tail end of the previous summer.
He made his maiden Championship fifty (65) against Kent last August, however he failed to better 21 in his remaining seven innings during a rather truncated summer. However, despite averaging just 13.66 in his nascent career thus far, Sussex still hold high hopes for the promising 19-year-old.
Clark was also a fixture in the England U19 team across 2019 and made the U19 World Cup squad early last year where he made three appearances with a top score of 38 against the West Indies.
An alumnus of nearby Ardingly College, Clark signed his first professional contract for the Hove-based side in November 2019 having played for the county since he was eight years old.
What 2021 holds?
After being thrown into the Championship side due to necessity last summer, Clark may find his pathway somewhat blocked this summer with the arrivals of Australian Travis Head, former England veteran Ravi Bopara and the return of South African Stiaan van Zyl, who missed the 2020 summer due to Covid-19 travel issues.
Luckily for Clark, more immediate opportunities could present themselves with Head missing the beginning of the season due to the delayed finish of the Sheffield Shield season and it’s up to the youngster to make himself un-droppable. Otherwise, a summer of second XI cricket as well as club cricket for Horsham in the Sussex Premier League beckons.
He has however, enjoyed a good pre-season with scores of 73 and 23 against Surrey and Hampshire respectively with Sussex due to begin their season proper at Lancashire on April 8th.
Dan Mousley (19) – Warwickshire
A middle-order batsman who made his Warwickshire debut in 2019, Mousley, alongside fellow youngsters Rob Yates and Matthew Lamb, will be tasked with the difficult job of replacing the void left by the retirements of Ian Bell and Tim Ambrose.
The Nuneaton-born left-hander, who also bowls handy offspin, signed his first professional contract with the Bears in May 2019 before signing a new improved three-year deal in December to commit his future to the club he’s called home since he was just eight years old.
He made his first-class debut against Essex in July 2019, just five days after his eighteenth birthday, before playing a further two matches in the Bob Willis Trophy last summer, where he impressed with scores of 47,31 and 71 – it was his ability to bat against spin that was a particular highlight.
He also made his T20 bow last summer where he showed his wide range of strokes with knocks of 58not out (off 44 deliveries) and 40(31) against Northants and Worcestershire respectively.
Like Cox and Clark, Mousley has also featured heavily for the England U19 side in recent years where he was a key component in the U19 World Cup in South Africa finishing fifth on the tournament run-scoring charts with 241 runs at 80.33 including knocks of 111 against Sri Lanka, 51 against Australia and 57 against Japan.
What 2021 holds?
Captain Will Rhodes, England opener Dom Sibley, mainstay Sam Hain and Indian overseas signing Hanuma Vihari remain the most experienced players in the Bears top order, but it will be up to Mousley, Yates, Lamb and Adam Hose to fill in the gaps for the rest of the top six.
It could well be that Mousley is pushed out of the side to begin the season with Yates and Lamb preferred for their additional first team exposure. He will await his chance while playing both second XI cricket and for club side Berkswell in the Birmingham & District Premier League.
Josh De Caires (18) – Middlesex & Leeds/Bradford UCCE
The son of former England batsman Mike Atherton, De Caires has yet to make his first-team debut for Middlesex but is already being touted to follow in his father’s footsteps and carve out a notable career for himself.
As well as having Atherton as a father, the right-handed top order batsman also counts former West Indian batsman Frank De Caires as his great-grandfather on his mother’s side.
De Caires made headlines last month when, batting at number three for his university side Leeds/Bradford UCCE in a pre-season friendly with Yorkshire at Headingley, he scored an unbeaten 118 from 292 balls against a strong home attack including David Willey, Ben Coad, Steven Patterson and Matt Fisher.
After his stoic effort against Yorkshire, he scored a more enterprising 44-ball 30 against Warwickshire a few days later showing his versatility as a batsman.
Having originally represented Middlesex since the U10 level, he made his second XI debut in 2017 aged just fifteen before signing a three-year-old contract with the Lords-based outfit last August to run concurrently with his university studies in Leeds.
What 2021 holds?
After impressing in his two friendly appearances recently, De Caires will look to kick on playing for the Leeds/Bradford university side throughout early summer before heading back to Middlesex to resume his batting in the second XI setup along with representing Radlett CC in the Hertfordshire Cricket League.
First team County Championship action and England U19 honours are sure to follow in the coming years.
Jack Carson (20) – Sussex
A Northern-Irish born offspinner who broke onto the county scene last summer, Carson has impressed as an attacking and intelligent spinner who likes to give the ball a good old rip.
Born in County Armagh, the 20-year-old had an impressive first foray into the county game in 2020, collecting 15 wickets at 22.66 in his four first-class appearances after making his debut against Hampshire in early August.
After collecting 2-15 and 3-37 0n debut he subsequently picked up 4-46 against Middlesex before rounding out the summer with a maiden five-wicket haul (5-93) against Surrey at The Oval.
Also, a capable lower order batsman good enough to score two academy hundreds in 2019, Carson’s first association with Sussex was to play for the county’s U12 side at the annual Blackstone festival following a recommendation by the former Sharks and Irish batsman Ed Joyce, he has since progressed through the academy and second XI setup before signing a two-year professional contract on the South Coast last October.
With Ireland becoming a Full Member of the ICC recently, Carson has not represented the country of his birth at any level since 2016 as he would be classed as an overseas player for Sussex – potentially jeopardising his place in the side.
What 2021 holds?
After his notable debut campaign in the Bob Willis Trophy last summer, Carson will begin the new Championship season as the club’s first choice spinner especially after the departure of previous incumbent Danny Briggs who has joined Warwickshire.
He will now also look to turn his attention to participation in both limited overs formats.
Jack Morley (19) – Lancashire
A Left-arm spinner who made an immediate impact with Lancashire at the end of last summer, 19-year-old Morley has a bright future in the game.
The Rochdale-born Morley was one of six young players to make their Lancashire first-class bows in 2020 with the county’s policy of placing its trust in youth seemingly paying off.
Making his first-class debut against Derbyshire at Liverpool in early September, he took 4-62 from 30 final day overs to bowl the Red Roses to victory alongside fellow left-armer Tom Hartley who himself took 3-79.
Morley was also a member of the England U19 setup in the summer of 2019 where he made a handful appearances against Bangladesh and India.
What 2021 holds?
Morley will likely begin the Championship campaign as Lancashire’s second choice spinner behind Hartley, who at 22 is the senior of the two men.
Legspinner Matt Parkinson could also come into consideration later in the summer when the pitches at Old Trafford generally start to offer some turn but Morley will be looking forward to more opportunities in the first XI as well as earning some reps in the Royal London 50-over competition.
Lewis Goldsworthy (20) – Somerset
Another young slow-left-arm spinner, 20-year-old allrounder Goldsworthy is looking to follow in the footsteps of Jack Leach and Dom Bess in benefitting from the turning wickets at Taunton.
With Bess having left for pastures new in Yorkshire and Leach likely to miss plenty of the summer on England Test duty, Goldsworthy will be aiming for plenty of opportunites in 2021.
Also, a strong middle order batsman, he made his T20 debut for Somerset in last summer’s Vitality Blast taking 2-24 and scoring an unbeaten 38 in a victory over Glamorgan.
Educated at the renowned Millfield School, the Cornishman joined Somerset’s academy in 2016 before moving onto the county’s second XI the following summer and representing the England U19’s for the first time in 2019.
His was one of the key figures in an otherwise disappointing U19 World Cup in South Africa last year where he finished with 12 wickets at an average of 9.58 and a stingy economy rate of just 2.34. His 5-21 against Sri Lanka and 2-24 verses Australia were partially eye-catching performances.
What 2021 holds?
With Bess gone and Leach likely to play only the first seven Championship fixtures before joining up with the England Test squad for their series with New Zealand in early June, Goldsworthy and fellow allrounder Roelof van der Merve will become the county’s only spin options going forward.
After started the 2021 second XI season very strongly scoring 100 and 78 against Glamorgan whilst batting at number three, its not out of the question that he picked as a middle order batsman in the Championship side before Leach is required by England.
He will also look to establish himself as a key player in Somerset’s limited overs sides when the Vitality Blast starts on June 9th.
Emilio Gay (20) – Northamptonshire
A Bedford-born top-order batsman who hails from Caribbean ancestry, Gay is now into his third season as a professional at Northants.
He made his first-class debut in a heavily rain-affected fixture against Gloucestershire in September 2019 before returning to the side in last summer’s Bob Willis Trophy.
After five low scores to begin the campaign, Gay broke through with a match-winning unbeaten 77 chasing 189 against Glamorgan.
Although a first-class average of 21.00 after seven innings attests to some deficiencies in Gay’s batting, there’s hopes that at just 20 he has both the time and talent to progress much further at Wantage Road.
Also, an occasional right-arm medium bowler, Gay learnt his cricket at Bedford School – the same school as another left-handed opening batsman, Sir Alastair Cook.
Like Cook, Gay’s an old-fashioned opener who likes to play straight and occupy the crease – a trait he’s shown since he joined the Northants’ academy setup at the U15 level.
After plenty of prolific run scoring for the second XI side, he signed his first professional contract in 2019 before extending it in January to commit his future until after the 2022 season.
What 2021 holds?
Gay will continue his first team education in the Championship side when Northants take on Kent on starting April 8th.
With Ben Curran and Ricardo Vasconcelos likely to open the batting this season, Gay will move down to number three in the order.
He has also strongly admitted his desire to break into the 50-over side this summer too.
George Hill (20) – Yorkshire
A 20-year-old allrounder from Keighley, Hill broke into the Yorkshire first XI last summer playing in both the Bob Willis Trophy and the Vitality Blast competitions.
He made his first-class debut against Derbyshire at Headingley in August before playing against arch-rivals Lancashire a week later where he scored 29 batting at number eight in a drawn match.
The right-hander later made his T20 debut also against Derbyshire before playing three further matches with limited success.
A former England U19 vice-captain, Hill impressed in 2019 when he made 91 in a Youth Test in Bangladesh before going onto represent his nation in the 2020 U19 World Cup where he top-scored with 90 against Zimbabwe.
Educated at Sedbergh School, Hill first represented Yorkshire at U14 level before joining the academy in 2016, making his second XI debut in 2017 and eventually signing his first professional contract in 2019.
What 2021 holds?
Despite his first-class debut last summer, Hill remains behind fellow allrounders Jordan Thompson and Matthew Waite in the peaking order for a place in the Championship side.
Although a place batting in the top six could remain a goal with Joe Root set to play only a handful of matches, both Jonny Bairstow and Dawid Malan missing with the IPL and fitness concerns hanging over former captain Gary Ballance.
Certainly, with many Yorkshire players having earned contracts in the inaugural Hundred competition, Hill – alongside a host of other youngsters on the Yorkshire books – will be given an opportunity to impress in the Royal London Cup.